This time of year always seems so bittersweet for me with the end of summer upon us, the kids going back to school. The specific date of August 29th has so many meanings for me….. this year would be my mom, Barbara Sue Levy Dackman’s 83rdbirthday. It was also the day 7 years ago when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans; which coincided with the first day that I started to work at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
My employment at the JMM was not something that I had intended…My connection with the JMM seven years ago was only that I had made an appointment to meet with the JMM’s family historian, Dr. Deborah Weiner of the Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center to help me in my search for my own family’s past. My father was always fascinated with his own family genealogy and was quite proud that his father, Zelig Dachmann travelled alone at age 20, to Baltimore from Dvinsk, Latvia on the Munchen, a ship that was a part of the Bremen Lines and arrived in Baltimore in March, 1899. I was delighted that I able to get a copy of the ship’s manifest from the JMM and show it to my father.
I was amazed by the breadth of information that was available for researchers at the Family History Center. Researchers have access to Baltimore City directories dating from 1752-1963; US census records for Baltimore from 1900-1930; passenger manifests of ships that arrived in the Port of Baltimore; records of Jewish cemeteries in the Greater Baltimore area; along with the communal records of birth, circumcisions, marriages and death and so much more……. I felt like a kid in a candy store- and also thought that I could spend so much time here at the JMM trying to really document my own family’s journey to Baltimore.
Fast forward -Seven years have passed since my first introduction to the Jewish Museum of Maryland and I am sad to say that I have not finished researching all that there is -but every once in awhile something reminds to go back and delve deeper into my own family’s roots.
There are places outside the JMM where you can do research from the confines of your home. The website of Jewish-Gen which is an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York offers access into many databases all over the world. I was able to locate the surname of Dachmann from Dvinsk and I found the names of my own paternal great grandfather-Jankel Mowscha and his father-Simon Dachmann. I also noted that Simon had a brother Mordechai.
The internet has really allowed us to have such an easy access to information and I decided to “google” my last name (maiden name)-and I discovered that there were many people with names are quite similar to mine, and I started to contact each one…..
Last weekend-I had the opportunity to meet one of the descendants of Mordechai Dachmann-my great-great grandfather’s brother. I met Barbara Mae Dachman (a similar name to my mother) who grew up in Queens, New York and has lived in Puerto Rico over the past 25 years. Barbara was here in the US visiting her mom and sister Ileen (so weird that there are two Ilene Dackman/Dachman walking around on this planet).
I travelled to NYC and hopped on the A train to Far Rockaway Beach in Queens. We had such a delightful visit-one of those moments that you take with you and just smile….. I found Barbara to be a lovely person-her mom Lorraine was able to give us both an insight to Barbara’s father, Seymour and life living with Barbara’s paternal grandfather – Samuel Dachman, who was the only son of Mordechai Dachmann-and the nephew to my great-great grandfather, Simon Dachmann. Our visit only lasted for two hours- but I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to meet a new relative- but I also think that I have also made a life-long friend.
I encourage you to visit the Robert L. Weinberg Family Research Center-it is so fascinating to touch documents from the past that bear the names of relatives that have lived before us… All of us have an immigration story-past and present. The JMM is a great place to start on your own family adventure.